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  • Featured ImageQueen Rock Montreal – Classic 1981 Concert on Blu-ray Disc!

    Queen Rock Montreal was released in Blu-ray Disc in 2007 by Eagle Rock. The disc features a classic 1981 performance from the band.
    Queen Rock Montreal was released in Blu-ray Disc in 2007 by Eagle Rock. The disc features a classic 1981 performance from the band.

     

     

    By 1981, Queen had established themselves as one of the biggest bands in the world, a fact undeniable to any rock fan. Following their 70s heyday but prior to their 80s revival, in which keyboards became a regular part of their sound, the band recorded this concert in Montreal, which was professionally filmed. Freddie Mercury, John Deacon, Roger Taylor, and Brian May had accomplished so much prior to this point and would continue to rise over the years. As a legendary classic rock band, the group has had no shortage of home video releases on DVD and Blu-ray Disc. How does Queen Rock Montreal hold up? (Note: This material had been released under the title of We Will Rock You several years earlier prior to the Blu-ray release; the name change for this version of the home video release was most likely to avoid confusion with the musical of the same name, which features Queen songs.)

    As was previously stated, this is a classic 1981 concert from the band, professionally filmed in Montreal. The group performs a setlist comprised of songs from nearly every album that had been released up to the time, including hits like Killer Queen, Somebody to Love, and Bohemian Rhapsody, but also features deep cuts including Let Me Entertain You, Save Me, and Dragon Attack. The band’s performance in this massive, impressive venue is beautifully supplemented by a fair share of pyrotechnic work as well. All four members of the band get a chance to shine throughout the performance.

    The setlist is comprised of the following songs:
    “We Will Rock You” (concert opening version)
    “Let Me Entertain You”
    “Play the Game”
    “Somebody to Love”
    “Killer Queen”
    “I’m in Love with My Car”
    “Get Down, Make Love”
    “Save Me”
    “Now I’m Here”
    “Dragon Attack”
    “Now I’m Here” (reprise)
    “Love of My Life”
    “Under Pressure”
    “Keep Yourself Alive” (with pre-song jam)
    “Drum Solo”
    “Guitar Solo/Guitar and Drum Duel”
    “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”
    “Jailhouse Rock”
    “Bohemian Rhapsody”
    “Tie Your Mother Down”
    “Another One Bites the Dust”
    “Sheer Heart Attack”
    “We Will Rock You”
    “We Are the Champions”
    “God Save the Queen” (recorded exit music)

    If you only buy one Queen home video release, this is the one to get. The band is phenomenal from start to finish; the fact that this takes place immediately before the release of the Hot Space record and the heavy integration of keyboards into the band’s music and live set makes it the end of the band’s first era, in a way. The show rocks hard and there are no dull moments throughout. Freddie Mercury shows us throughout the show why is considered one of rock’s iconic frontmen. A high energy show in an exciting place with one of rock’s most iconic bands in their prime; this is the definitive Queen concert and home video release.

    There are countless highlights of this show, including epic live performances, solos, and theatrics that help the show to reign supreme as one of the best the band ever did. The fact that the setlist integrates deep tracks and is not merely a “greatest hits live” show makes it all the more appealing to the Queen die-hards. For this particular fan, the true highlight of the night is Roger Taylor’s drum solo, in which he leaves his traditional drum kit to pound away on some classical style drums! This was a band that always managed to impress their fans, and when you watch this video, it becomes clear as to why the band has so substantial and strong a following, even nearly a quarter century after the passing of Freddie Mercury.

    The show was shot on film, which helps it to have much better picture quality than that of a number of vintage live concerts released from the era on home video. The colors are bold and bright and the image clear throughout. There are a few soft moments, and a few that are overly light and dark, but these are to be expected with a concert disc; overall it looks fantastic despite minor flaws. The audio does not falter either; Queen’s music deserves to be heard with the best audio possible, and Eagle Rock’s disc certainly delivers here.

    The bonus features are another reason to recommend this disc. The real highlight amongst them is the band’s complete 25-minute Live Aid performance from 1985, filmed some years later at that legendary concert. Sadly, the video quality is not as good as the Rock Montreal show (it was presumably shot on standard grade video tape rather than film) but the band still delivers. Also included are Live Aid rehearsal footage and some television interviews. The main Queen Rock Montreal show even has a feature length audio commentary with Roger Taylor and Brian May, which is essential listening for any fan.

    If I have one minor complaint, it is that two tracks that appear on the audio release, “Flash” and “The Hero,” are not included here. Presumably the video for these tracks no longer exists, but it would have been nice to have gotten audio only versions as bonus features.

    Queen Rock Montreal is by far the best of all of the Queen home videos available. This Blu-ray release from Eagle Rock features solid audio and video, plus the bonus features, including the Live Aid show, are the icing on the cake. A nice mixture of hits and deep tracks makes for the ultimate setlist, and the band is on fire throughout. If you are at all a Queen fan, do not hesitate to add this release to your collection. Absolute highest recommendation!

     

     



  • Featured ImageRon Keel – The Ultimate Video Collection!

    Ron Keel: The Ultimate Video Collection covers Ron Keel's promo videos spanning 20 years of his career.
    Ron Keel: The Ultimate Video Collection covers Ron Keel’s promo videos spanning 20 years of his career.

     

     

    Ron Keel’s musical career has been long and diverse. Fans will always remember him for Keel (the band) and classic 80s rock anthems like “The Right to Rock.” But his career went well beyond that, including an unexpected foray into country music! These days, Ron Keel has returned to the rock that made him famous in the Decade of Decadence, but still pursues other side projects and interests as well.

    Over the years, Ron Keel recorded many music videos with his various bands and musical projects; this collection is an effort to bring all of them together in one place. Fans have been longing for this material to be compiled in one convenient DVD set. So, what does this set feature, and is it worth picking up if you are a Keelaholic?

    As far as material included goes, this set covers all of the bases and nearly every period of Ron Keel’s career, from 1985-2005. There are tracks from Keel (the band), Fair Game, Ronnie Lee Keel (his country period), and IronHorse. The only major project not featured or depicted in this set from this period of Keel’s career is the Japanese band Saber Tiger, though it is unlikely he actually recorded any sort of music video content with them. The majority of the videos here are traditional promo videos, though some are live television performances and other broadcast spots.

     

    Tracklist for the DVD.
    Tracklist for the DVD.

     

    The material here is interesting to watch because Ron Keel’s career has been so diverse over the years. The delightfully cheesy and over-the-top Keel (the band) videos are the major highlight here, though seeing his transformation to country in the later years is equally entertaining.

    The packaging claims that the videos in this collection are sourced from the best possible elements; the majority of the tracks on here looks like they were taken from a high quality VHS tape, which is probably more or less how they looked when first aired. A few of them are of lower quality and were presumably ripped right from TV; the Japanese performance of “United Nations” looks particularly atrocious, but again it is unlikely any better source exists. This fan, for one, is grateful to have all of this material in one place.

    Unfortunately, the disc itself has two major design flaws that make watching the videos a pain. First and foremost, there is no “play all” button. You have to individually select each and every track to play the video; you cannot simply watch them all in sequence. The second flaw makes this even more frustrating; the cursor resets to the “top” position after every song, making it an even bigger pain to do this. It does not make the disc unbearable or anything, but a play all button was definitely needed here.

    This collection is bare bones and devoid of any other extras, but Keel fans are not going to mind; this is the perfect way to get all of the videos in one convenient place. Highly recommended for all fans despite some of the quality issues.

     

     



  • Featured ImageFan Halen and Cyanide – Unchained on the House of Blues Stage!

    Fan Halen played the House of Blues on Friday, July 24, 2015, with Cyanide as the support act.
    Fan Halen played the House of Blues on Friday, July 24, 2015, with Cyanide as the support act.

     

     

    The House of Blues was transformed into Rock Central on July 24, 2015, for a double shot of classic hard rock at its finest, with a set from premier Van Halen tribute Fan Halen, and an opening set from local Vegas rockers Cyanide. The crowd brought out by this show demonstrates that rock and roll is alive and well in the City of Sin, with the House of Blues remaining one of the top venues for local shows!

    For the unfamiliar, the House of Blues is located in the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip, though there are approximately a dozen House of Blues venues located across the United States. The venue is larger than a small club-sized setting, but more intimate than a bigger arena show. This, of course, makes it an ideal place to see your favorite band.

     

    Cyanide kicked off the show with an hour-long set, mixing covers and originals.
    Cyanide kicked off the show with an hour-long set, mixing covers and originals.

     

    Cyanide kicked off the evening, playing a set that was just under one hour long. Anyone who knows me and my love of the local Vegas music scene knows just how much I enjoy listening to these guys. The group recently released their debut album, Lethal Dose, and has a steadily growing reputation. Long time Vegas rock fans will recognize vocalist Robert Hussey from the Children of the Damned Iron Maiden tribute as well, which is slated to play a set opening for next month’s Clash of the Titans tribute at the House of Blues.

     

    Cyanide frontman Robert Hussey.
    Cyanide frontman Robert Hussey.

     

    Essentially, Cyanide creates new 80s glam and sleaze songs, but also brings covers into their set as well. This set, supporting Fan Halen, was comprised of a mixture of original songs and Motley Crue covers, though the band threw in some other cover tunes near the end, including Queensryche and Iron Maiden. This band captures vintage 80s sleaze and glam sounds like no other; the Crue songs and the originals flowed together surprisingly well! With Cyanide’s own songs including ballads, sleazy rockers, and everything in between, their original material is every bit as entertaining as the artists they are covering. Vocalist Robert Hussey pulls off a better Vince Neil voice than Vince Neil himself these days! Though nearly an hour, there was not one dull moment in this entire set.

     

    Cyanide bassist David Karr.
    Cyanide bassist David Karr.

     

    Despite Fan Halen having played Vamp’d out here in Vegas on a regular basis, I had never actually seen the band. But the crowd on the House of Blues floor should have said it all; these guys have a loyal following in the City of Sin! Even before the music began, this fan was enthralled by the enthusiasm and dedication of the band, taking on the personae of the actual Van Halen members with full costumes, instruments, and personalities to match! Derek Fuller, the guitarist portraying Eddie Van Halen, even had Eddie’s classic “Frankenstein” Strat guitar, and Ernie Berru, the vocalist playing David Lee Roth, had an over-the-top look that more than did justice to the group’s classic frontman in his 80s glory days. A humorous backstage interview with the actual band back in the day played on the video screen prior to the actual set beginning, evoking many laughs from the crowd.

     

    Lighting up the stage on a Friday night in Sin City!
    Lighting up the stage on a Friday night in Sin City!

     

    Fortunately, the musicianship of the artists themselves was more than up to the task as well. You can tell these guys are die-hard Van Halen fans that have studied the classic band religiously. In no time flat, they were on stage rocking out the classic Roth-era Van Halen hits, with no shortage of screaming fans in the audience. In a day and age where the real David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen are past their prime and not able to deliver in a live concert setting like they once did, these guys more than did justice to the world of classic Van Halen on a live stage. And that, my friends, is not an easy thing to do.

     

    Derek Fuller as Eddie Van Halen!
    Derek Fuller as Eddie Van Halen!

     

    One of the best things I can say about this set is that the band did not simply mimic the studio recordings and go “by the book.” There were a few flubs, likely deliberate, but this is largely in keeping with the way the band played on stage back in the day. There were drum and guitar solos (including a killer, extended version of “Eruption” that got the crowd fired up) and just about everything else in between. It felt like an authentic Van Halen experience on the stage; this was definitely more enthralling or interesting than simply sitting at home and listening to the albums. Berru as David Lee Roth was even doing the midair splits jumping off the drum riser, and twirling and catching the microphone stand! When a tribute band can deliver better these days than the actual band, you know you are in the right place with a group like Fan Halen.

    The setlist consisted of songs from the bands “Classic Six” Ted Templeman-produced records with David Lee Roth on vocals: Van Halen, Van Halen II, Women and Children First, Fair Warning, Diver Down, and 1984. Though the setlist was heavy on the hits, the group did throw in a few deep tracks and unexpected surprises for good measure; even David Lee Roth’s solo hit “Yankee Rose” got worked into one of the medleys! Naturally, no post-1984 material or material with other vocalists was performed at this show; this band’s loyalty is to the Roth era, which they of course do immense justice to.

     

    Ernie Berru as Diamond Dave!
    Ernie Berru as Diamond Dave!

     

    Granted, there were a few songs I would liked to have heard played at this show that were omitted, but this is a small complaint; when a band has six albums packed with classics from start to finish, one band cannot possibly play them all in a single night. Fans in the audience were clearly satisfied with the end result.

     

    Geoge DuBose as Michael Anthony!
    George DuBose as Michael Anthony!

     

    It is tough to pay tribute to a classic hard rock staple like Van Halen, but Fan Halen’s set at the House of Blues more than did justice to the band’s best era. Seeing this experience on a live stage beats paying a hundred bucks to see the real band, and to walk away underwhelmed not long after. If you are a Van Halen fan, Fan Halen’s show is essential!

     

    PHOTO CREDIT: Pictures courtesy of Paul ROCK Santos-  

    Pictures ©2015 Paul ROCK Santos used with permission- all rights reserved.

    PHOTO CREDIT: Robert Hussey of Cyanide and Ernie Berru as Diamond Dave by April Plant

    ZRock’R Photos by April ©2015 April Dawn Plant and ZRock’R Magazine- All Rights Reserved.

     



  • Featured ImageEnuff Z’Nuff – New Reissues from Rock Candy Records!

    Rock Candy Records has reissued Enuff Z'Nuff's first two studio efforts.
    Rock Candy Records has reissued Enuff Z’Nuff’s first two studio efforts.

     

     

    Enuff Z’Nuff was one of the most unique bands to emerge from the 80s rock scene. Hailing from the Chicago area, the group was often lumped under the “hair band” and “glam” umbrellas, though the band actually had more of a power pop sound, reminiscent of bands like Cheap Trick, albeit with a style and attitude all their own. The group also had some musical elements in common with alternative rock/pop sounds, something that has made their music even more timeless than many of their contemporaries. The best known incarnation of the band consisted of vocalist and keyboardist Donnie Vie, bassist Chip Z’Nuff, lead guitarist Derek Frigo (formerly of the band Le Mans) and drummer Vikki Fox (later in Vince Neil’s solo band).

    The band achieved moderate chart success with their self-titled 1989 debut, featuring the hits “Fly High Michelle” and “New Thing,” which prompted many fans and critics alike to keep their eyes on the band. The album was followed up by the band’s sophomore effort, 1991’s Strength. While the second album was nowhere near as popular and as strong a seller as the first, the music was no less excellent and it still managed to garner its share of positive reviews and recognition. In the years that followed, the band began to go through lineup changes and record label shifts; only Chip Z’Nuff remains with the group of the members from the band’s heyday.

    Rock Candy Records, a UK-based record label with whom the band has recorded and released new material, has now reissued the band’s first two albums, Enuff Z’Nuff and Strength, each featuring bonus tracks and a booklet packed with informative liner notes and photos. All these years later, how do the first and second efforts from Enuff Z’Nuff hold up, and are these reissues worth picking up if you are a fan?

     

    Enuff Z'Nuff is the debut album from the band of the same name, released in 1989.
    Enuff Z’Nuff is the debut album from the band of the same name, released in 1989.

     

    When it comes to Enuff Z’Nuff, the first album is the one that everyone knows, and rightfully so. “New Thing” and “Fly High Michelle” were both big hits that got their share of recognition back in the day; the latter was a major hit MTV video. But the quality music does not stop there. The band’s unique power pop style and Beatles-esque vocal harmonies are evident all throughout the release, and we get a good mixture of straight up electric guitar-infused rock, and more melodic numbers as well. Other highlights on the record include the melodic, bluesy rock of “She Wants More,” the upbeat, energetic “Hot Little Summer Girl,” and the seven minute “In the Groove,” in which the late Derek Frigo beautifully shows off his guitar prowess (this guy was underrated as hell, and sadly remains such even long after his passing). There is not one weak track in this set of songs; it is no wonder that fans continue to revere the album as a classic.

    Rock Candy’s reissue of the band’s debut album includes two bonus tracks, which are live versions of “Fly High Michelle” and “New Thing,” both of which capture the band in the prime of their heyday.

     

    Strength is Enuff Z'Nuff's second album, released in 1991.
    Strength is Enuff Z’Nuff’s second album, released in 1991.

     

    Strength was never anywhere near as popular as its predecessor in the Enuff Z’Nuff catalogue, but the record is no less impressive. The group maintains their signature sound, but also focuses on a more mature musical direction and explores other musical avenues, making this one of their most interesting releases. The group could have more or less copied the formula of their first album, but this fan gives them credit for branching out and not being afraid to try new things. The songs are mature and definitely far from what people place under the “glam” and “hair” umbrellas; the band’s more alternative side shows itself throughout this record, as do elements of their earlier power-pop sound and Beatles-esque vocal harmonies. Listeners will be pleasantly surprised by what the sophomore album from the band has to offer if they give it a chance.

    The reissue of Strength from Rock Candy contains two additional studio tracks that were not found on the original CD release, “Kitty” and “Let it Go.”

    Rock Candy’s reissues of both albums sound great, with no major audio flaws worth mentioning. The expanded liner notes and rare photographs are a nice extra as well; fans are going to love checking this material out, and the bonus tracks on both CDs are a nice incentive to rebuy the albums if you already have the older CD releases. If you own the earlier releases and are wondering whether or not to upgrade, the answer is YES.

    Rock Candy has done another bang-up job reissuing and remastering some underrated classics. These efforts from Enuff Z’Nuff are classics, and the band’s classic alternative power pop style is well worth rediscovering, or discovering outright if you have never heard them before. A cut above many bands of their era; it is no surprise that the group remains a favorite of many. These reissues get my highest recommendation, and are well worth adding to your music library!

     

     



  • Featured ImageKanan: The Last Padawan – Marvel Strikes Back with Another Superb Star Wars Comic!

    Volume 001
    Volume 001

     

     

    With the release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens on the horizon for a theatrical release in December, Star Wars mania is in full swing again. There are no shortage of old fans rediscovering the legendary science fiction franchise, which began with the original 1977 film’s release. Perhaps the most exciting thing leading up to the new film is the fact that Marvel has reclaimed the rights to create Star Wars comics (Marvel had previously made Star Wars comics throughout the 1980s, with Dark Horse Comics holding the rights for the next 20 years or so).

    Kanan: The Last Padawan is the latest in the ongoing series of Marvel Star Wars comics. With Disney’s takeover of Star Wars, all former Expanded Universe stories/novels/games/comics/etc. have been rendered non-canon, rebranded under the Star Wars Legends banner. All future work in the franchise, including the Marvel comic books, will be canon from here on out. This is the fourth in the new series of Star Wars Marvel comics, following Star Wars (the comic), Darth Vader, and Princess Leia. A new Lando comic series has since begun as well, with a Chewbacca one slated for release later this year, as well as some others that will lead more directly into Episode VII.

     

    Volume 002
    Volume 002

     

    Kanan Jarrus is a character in the CGI animated television series, Star Wars Rebels (I admit that, despite being a die-hard Star Wars fan, as of this writing I have not yet watched the show. However enjoying this series does NOT require knowledge of the series/character). Back in his younger years, Kanan was a Jedi Padawan learner assigned to a master as he embarked upon his training to become a full-fledged Jedi Knight. Unfortunately, things did not work out the way he was planning. With Emperor Palpatine declaring Order 66, all Clone Troopers turned on the Jedi and murdered them, believing them to be traitors to the Galactic Republic. Young Kanan, still known as Caleb Dume at the time, was forced to retreat to save his own life, with his former Clone Trooper allies hot on his trail. Young Kanan’s retreat leads him right into the hands of criminals and smugglers, with whom he is forced to enter into an uneasy and uncertain alliance, just to survive. All the while he finds himself struggling not only to escape his pursuers, but also learning who he can and cannot trust in a galaxy turned upside down amidst the formation of the Galactic Empire.

    For the most part, Marvel has been on a roll with their new Star Wars comics. Star Wars (the comic) and Darth Vader beautifully captured the feel of the Classic Trilogy, and nailed the personalities of the characters perfectly. Princess Leia got off to a slow start, but was redeemed in its latter issues. Even Lando, with just one issue under his belt, is getting underway in fine form. Kanan manages to stand as another strong series, substantially distanced in the Star Wars timeline from the other series (the others so far are set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back) whereas this one takes place in the immediate aftermath of Revenge of the Sith, amidst the formation of the Galactic Empire and the Great Jedi Purge.

     

    Volume 003
    Volume 003

     

    While I would not call this my favorite of the new Star Wars comic series (Darth Vader currently holds that accolade in the eyes of this fan) it stands strong and creates a gripping, involving storyline that is radically different from the other comics Marvel is doing in the Galaxy Far, Far Away. Seeing a former Jedi Knight in training reduced to common thievery in his effort just to survive and stay hidden makes for some interesting reading. Like the other comics, the art style is solid as well; all of Marvel’s comics so far have art styles that are distinctive from each other, yet flow well together at the same time. A solid storyline makes Kanan an interesting addition to Marvel’s growing array of Star Wars tales.

    It is a damn good time to be a Star Wars fan, with Marvel’s comics being one of the biggest reasons. It seems like the stories are only getting better and more involving over the course of time, and Kanan has proven to be no exception to the rule. Four issues in so far, there have been plenty of gripping twists and turns, and it will be interesting to see where the series goes. Kanan: The Last Padawan is a great addition to the new Star Wars canon, and comes highly recommended to any fan of the franchise!